McManus and others v Beckham: CA 4 Jul 2002

The claimant sought damages from the defendant who was a pop star, and had vociferously, publicly, and wrongly accused the claimant of selling pictures with fake autographs of her husband. The defendant obtained an order striking out the claim on the ground that the defendant was not responsible for repetitions of the slander by others.
Held: It was not possible to dispose of the republication issue at the interlocutory stage. Much would depend on the findings of the jury, in the light of appropriate directions. Whether the defendant was so responsible was a matter eventually for a jury to decide. She might be found liable if her own fame was such that she expected or should reasonably expect anything extraordinary which she said in public, to be reported. The striking out was set aside. It would be a question of fact for each case. ‘The reality is that the court has to decide whether, on the facts before it, it is just to hold [the defendant] responsible for the loss in question’.
Waller LJ said: ‘What the law is trying to achieve in this area is a just and reasonable result by reference to the position of a reasonable person in the position of the defendant. If a defendant is actually aware (1) that what she says or does is likely to be reported, and (2) that if she slanders someone that slander is likely to be repeated in whole or in part, there is no injustice in her being held responsible for the damage that the slander causes via that publication. I would suggest further that if a jury were to conclude that a reasonable person in the position of the defendant should have appreciated that there was a significant risk that what she said would be repeated in whole or in part in the press and that that would increase the damage caused by the slander, it is not unjust that the defendant should be liable for it. Thus I would suggest a direction along the above lines rather than by reference to ‘foreseeability’.’
Laws LJ said: ‘It will not however in my judgment be enough to show that D’s slander is a cause of X’s further publication: for such a cause might exist although D could have no reason to know of it; and then to hold D responsible would not be just. This is why the old formulae, ‘natural and probable cause,’ is inapt even as a figurative description of the relationship that needs to be shown between D’s slander and the further publication D is to be held liable for the latter. It must rather be demonstrated that D foresaw that further publication would probably take place, or that D (or a reasonable person in D’s position) should have so foreseen and that in consequence increased damage to C ‘would ensue’.
Such an approach, I hope, may go some modest distance to demythologise the law of defamation. I make it clear that I intend what I had said to be in conformity with Waller LJ’s suggestion at the end of his judgment as to how a jury might be directed, though with difference to him I think that any avoidance of the term ‘foreseeability’ is commended by the need for clarity rather than adherence to principle, for in principle the approach he proposes, and for what its worth my own reasoning, require that the damage in question flowing from X’s act be foreseen or foreseeable by D or the reasonable person in D’s position’
Lord Justice Waller, Lord Justice Clarke and Lord Justice Laws
Times 11-Jul-2002, Gazette 12-Sep-2002, [2002] EWCA Civ 939, [2002] 1 WLR 2982, [2002] 4 All ER 497
England and Wales
ApprovedSlipper v British Broadcasting Corporation CA 1990
The plaintiff, a retired policeman was featured in a film about the Great Train Robbery. He sought to say that paper reviews of the film, and trailers worked to spread the libel, and should count in the assessment of damages against the defendant, . .
ExplainedWard v Weeks 1830
Complaint was made as to the publication of defamatory words addressed to one Bryce who ‘without any authority from the defendant’ repeated the same to Bryer. It was the repetition and not the original statement which ‘occasioned the Plaintiffs . .

Cited by:
CitedDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others (No 3) CA 18-May-2005
The principal claimants sold the rights to take photographs of their wedding to a co-claimant magazine (OK). Persons acting on behalf of the defendants took unauthorised photographs which the defendants published. The claimants had retained joint . .
CitedBudu v The British Broadcasting Corporation QBD 23-Mar-2010
The defendant sought to strike out the claimant’s action in defamation. It had reported that the police had withdrawn an employment offer to claimant after doubting his immigration status.
Held: The claims should be struck out. The articles . .
CitedBaturina v Times Newspapers Ltd QBD 31-Mar-2010
The claimant sought damages in defamation in respect of an article published by the defendant newspaper. She was the wife of the Mayor of Moscow, and was required to disclose on a public list assets held by her. The defendant said that she owned a . .
CitedHays Plc v Hartley QBD 17-May-2010
Mr Hartley operated a news agency, and provided to the publisher of the Sunday Mirror, MGN Ltd, allegations of racism that had been levelled at the claimant company by former employees. The allegations were reported in an article headed ”KKK . .
CitedLewis v Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis and Others (Rev 1) QBD 31-Mar-2011
The defendant sought a ruling on the meaning of the words but using section 69(4) of the 1981 Act. The claimant solicitor was acting in complaints as to the unlawful interception of celebrity voicemails by agents of the press. There had been debate . .
CitedS v Suren and Another QBD 10-Sep-2004
. .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 08 January 2021; Ref: scu.174189